NORFOLK, Va. — The Norfolk District Army Corps of Engineers has authorized a new option for developers to help clean up the Elizabeth River.

District Commander Col. Jason Kelly signed paperwork, in the middle of the river, authorizing the Living River Restoration Trust to work with companies to mitigate the river bottom.

“What we’re doing is worthy of this sort of pause because it’s a first,” Kelly said.

According to officials, developers need to have state and federal permits when working in waterways.

One of the permit requirements is to mitigate areas that have been contaminated.

Wetlands are usually picked for the mitigation process and developers had the option to either do it themselves or hire a private company, according to officials.

This new authorization will give developers the chance to choose the trust instead.

Kelly and the trust’s chair, Diana Bailey, said it’s the first nationally to specifically work on river bottom impacts.

“River bottoms are even more important than wetlands because that’s the bottom of the food chain. Without a healthy bottom, we can’t keep clean the river,” Bailey said.

Bailey worked for the Army Corps for years before she worked for the trust.

She’s helping to keep the river clean because she wants to preserve it for her grandchildren.

Bailey said it’s not the first time they’ve done river mitigation.

The trust was established in 2004 to mitigate Money Point.

She believes the river’s come a long way since first getting involved.

“It is a miracle and it shows the resilience of nature if we can work together, how quickly it can rebound, how quickly it responds,” she said.

Bailey said the trust has already preserved 600 acres.

They’ve studied the river bottom for years and have already chosen areas near the Paradise Creek.

The option is also another first nationally because the trust can use activated carbon along the bottom of the river, according to Kelly.  

Both are excited about what the future holds for future mitigation efforts and that whatever is next will continue to keep the Elizabeth River clean.

“Although today we celebrate a first, I hope it’s not the last,” Kelly said.